Astoria (the one across the pond)

I had a period where I wanted to work in a fishing town called Astoria, Oregon-preferably on a boat- after high school.  (I thought I loved singing too much and therefore was always on the lookout for something more "sacrificial")  I always loved the moody beaches of the Pacific Northwest. I just recently spent a 4 1/2 year stint living in Astoria, New York. Not so beachy. In the middle of those Astorias there was Astoria Studios.


 After we had signed to BMG there were singles and remixes to be released to promote Big Beautiful Sky.  Also, we were looking into getting the record mixed by Steve Fitzmaurice.  I believe he may have been called "Fitz".  He wanted to do this at Astoria studios which is on the Thames near Hampstead Court.  There is an unmarked door along a lovely old brick wall and through it you step onto a luscious lawn of green.  Down a lilting hill the river sparkles in the evening sun and in the left side of your scope sits an old boat.  A beautiful boat.  A boat wrapped in windows. A boat full of history and stories.  Now we were the ones taking part in this story. 

This is Kip in a little boat tooling about the river with some fowl friends.








I have a big memory of eating big herby salads with fresh salmon up in the listening room overlooking the property.  My husband was there with us and also my dear friend Emily. I felt like a cat in the sun.  Cozy, warm, and full of fish. (a very well fed cat, with friends)

You could listen in on what was happening down in the studio. There's a lot of listening and waiting in those processes after your part is done.  There are many hands that make that one thing.  Pretty wild to be listening to Montana being mixed and maneuvered on a river in England. 

Many times in the years around this time I felt like I was watching from outside of myself.  So much of making music is absolutely present and consuming and all inside, but making a product is a very different thing.

CLOTHES NOTE: I got this sweater at Portabello Market.  It was hand weaved by the woman I bought it from.  It is absolutely luxurious and soft and red and it has loooooong sleeves and a bit to wrap around my neck.  



Promotion - Playing With Fire



Venus Hum Matches

This may be the rarest piece of VH memoribilia I have from the band.  Once Hummingbirds was finished and we started to tour the UK we were given a case of matches.  We were supposed to put these on the tables of the clubs we were playing and we did.  But we did take a few as keepsakes.

I remember when we were heading back to the USA Annette had a large box of these taken by security at Heathrow....I don't know how I got mine home...maybe I packed them in my suitcase. 

To give you an idea of how the record industry has changed in a few short years look at the text on the back of the matches.  Available at your local record mention of online music availability and this EP was release 4 months after Apple launced iTunes.

Our US label took a much different approach to marketing the band.  They were much more aggressive in attaching us to emerging music retail and internet outlets.   We were on the very first  iTunes electronc music page and we were selling our albums in boutique clothing stores as well as music retailers.  They're hunch was correct as history will attest.  And that began a great relationship with Apple and iTunes that exsists to this day. 


Hummingbirds EP - 10" Vinyl Record


The Hummingbirds EP was our record companies first shared release with BMG.  We all wanted it to feel like an old country record but with the twist of an electronic recording.  I don't remember who coined the phrase "The New Sound Of Nashville" but it became a slogan on several promotional items to follow this release.

The Artwork

I went to Great Escape, a vintage record shop in Nashville, and buying an old Columbia Recording form the 30's. That's what I based these mock-ups on. The idea was to send it of to London...this way they kind of knew what we were thinking and to give their art department a place to start.

Hand drawn idea based on the Colombia Record

Refined attempt using printer cutouts of text.

This is what we sent to the UK as our idea.

The art department at BMG sent 4 ideas back.  Above is idea 1 and 4.

We decided to go with the artwork that was closest to what we submitted.  I wasn't too happy about loosing the Mono-Fi logo at top, as we were trying to brand that more and more with each release, but I did like fonts chosen and the addition of the catch phrase "The New Sound Of Nashvile."



Venus Hum & Sean O'Hagen

Anyone who asks me what music I listen to the most will get an earful about The High Llamas. They are without a doubt the group that I spend the most ear time with. Their records are incredibly rewarding- you can really dig in deep with all that is happening- from the songwriting to the sounds, and especially the arrangements. 

The principle figure in The High Llamas is Sean O'Hagen. He's also responsible for a ton of string and brass arrangements for a lot of other artists, including Stereolab, Super Furry Animals and Sondre Lerche. So when we had an opportunity to flesh out our first album with a proper budget I was very keen to hire Sean. 

Sean and fellow Llamas member, keyboardist/vocalist/cellist Marcus Holdaway did string arrangements on 3 songs for us- Alice, Bella Luna and The Bells. The sessions took place at The Dairy Studio in London and were recorded by the wonderful Fulton Dingley.

I first met Sean for coffee at cafe near our London hotel. After several long minutes of me try to explain just how much The High Llamas meant to me, we got down to business. My inclination when hiring an arranger is to make a general plan for the songs and then to just get out of the way. This was indeed the right call with Sean… the parts he and Marcus came up with were surprising- they approached the songs in a way that I couldn't imagine- exactly what I was hoping they'd do.  The results were subtle but added so much to the songs. It is still one of the highlights of my musical life.